Guns and Fires.....questions on insurance.


October 10, 2006, 09:12 PM
Over the weekend we lost our apartment to a fire that basically gutted most of the space. Since we are closing on a house this week, I was holding off buying a gun safe and instead had all of my shotguns and rifles mostly in hard cases......almost twenty of them. The cases were basically melted and exposed the guns inside to heat, smoke, and water from the firefighters who did an excellent job of preserving the structure. The guns all received damage in varying degrees. All have surface rusting in places from the water and heat. Synthetic stocked rifles have melted in places, some lightly and some grotesquely, and wood stocked rifles and shotguns have melted plastic from the foam and case material in places and lots of water staining on wood surfaces. My most sentimental piece, a 30's Winchester 52b Sporting that was 99% condition actually received the least damage of all guns in the attic, but was no doubt devalued heavily by just some light discoloration to the metal in places and some bad water stains in the stock.
Insurance will be covering all damages. The question I have is this: When is a gun determined to be a total loss and require replacement/compensation at full retail by an insurance company. If the gun was still functional, but cosmetically ruined, how much value is actually lost that insurance will pay for? If I am compensated for the gun if it is determined to be a total loss, will the insurance company get to keep the damaged firearm much the same way they keep a car that is totaled and sell it to salvage? Some would make great project guns.
The good news is that most of my pistols were not damaged as I had them in a place that was damaged only by smoke. It will be interesting to see if Dillon will replace my 550 and 650 that are now very much broken! Anyhow, on the bright side, and most important of all, nobody was hurt.

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October 11, 2006, 02:29 AM
Read your Policy over very carefully. Some Insurance Companies won't pay for Firearms damaged.

October 11, 2006, 02:03 PM
Sorry to hear about the loss, but you said it best - nobody was hurt and that is the most important thing. Depends upon your state and insurance company (their policy). Depends also if they were covered under your personal property segment or if you had them scheduled. If you're in Texas, I have a better chance of helping you as insurance differs greatly from state to state.

October 11, 2006, 02:23 PM
If they pay you for it you won't get to keep it. You may ask about buying it back, but that may not be possible.

October 11, 2006, 02:34 PM
Your firearms are considered personal property. If they are damaged, lost, or stolen, your insurer should cover the losses.

Some years ago a co-worker of mine had the same problem. He took the firearms to a gunsmith for an appraisal/evaluation of what was repairable and what was considered beyond repair. His carrier cut him a check for the repair & replacement.

October 11, 2006, 02:51 PM
Read your policy.

I had a laptop burn up by lightning. Any fool could smell it and tell you it was a pile of melted boards inside.

The insurance co. made me take it to a computer fixer who billed them $75 to say it was junk. The good news is the co. would pay out to $2000 to replace it in 1999. The new one I got was a Pentium II with great software for about $1900 which they paid. Anyone want it? I'll mail it to you.

You might be able to get the "same" guns but with better triggers or accuizing for what they pay.

October 11, 2006, 02:52 PM
This is going to be up to your insurance company and what sort of policy you have.

I recently moved and have all new insurance for my stuff. I asked lots of questions and sometimes the insurance folks had to ask their lawyer about questions I had, so just reading the policy is not always as cut and dried as reading a doctor suess book.

For my stuff anything that might be saved needs to go to a gunsmith or someone else who can examine it and figure out if it is worth fixing or not.

For sentimental stuff you could buy it back like a totalled car, but to some extent you get into legal snafu stuff if the metal has lost its heat treat and the firearm is unsafe to fire. I don't have anything like this so I did not aks more about it.

I went and got a specific seperate firearms policy because the standard coverage did not cover my stuff very well.

Jorg Nysgerrig
October 11, 2006, 03:07 PM
Insurance varies so much from provider to provider and policy to policy. You need to contact your agent and find out whether you have replacement cost or current value coverage and if there were any firearm specific clauses.

Good luck.

October 11, 2006, 04:00 PM
My Farm Burea insurance specifically calls out firearms as having a limit on how much can be paid out. I paid a few bucks more to get that limit raised. I would think my insurance would cover cost of restoring them to previous condition or replacing them. You might have to save all your receipts and show exactly what you did to get reimbursed.

Jim Watson
October 11, 2006, 04:02 PM
I don't know about insurance benefits... many insurance companies seem anti-gun and they are all anti-payout, but the fire guns themselves may or may not be salvageable.

There was a shop in my area that kind of specialized in house fire gunsmithing. The rule of thumb was that if the springs retain at least some tension, then the barrel and action steel was not likely annealed dangerously. Fume and water damage were the bad actors on guns not actually hit by flame, as you are seeing.

I knew one guy who did his own. They were not all pretty, but most were capable of being made shootable. He home parkerized most to get some finish on the metal, and refinished the wood. Plastic and pot metal parts were usually a dead loss, of course, but replaceable on recent models.

October 11, 2006, 08:21 PM
Meta; I'm glad that everyone is ok. I went through a house fire 6 years ago, and know what it like to loose almost everything you own.

My insurance company was great, they paid to have the damaged guns reblued and the stocks refinished.

I'd be very carelul with any gun that was hot enough to melt a plastic stock. It's possible that the temper of the steel, particuraly the springs, could have changed. Make sure that a compatent gunsmith checks those out. You may want to find a way to safely test fire them when they are repaired.

You didn't mention ammo in your post. Any ammunition that may have been heated above normal temperature should be disposed, safely and legaly of course. High temperature can change change the properties of some powders, and I would not trust any ammo that had been in a fire.

October 11, 2006, 08:30 PM
I won't speculate on your insurance, but I do know that the metal will continue to degrade after a fire unless you get it oiled right away. There can be lots of nasties in a fire that makes shooting corrosive ammo pretty benign.

Jim Watson
October 11, 2006, 08:58 PM
Oil is not enough, you really need to wash a gun that has smoke damage to get the crud off; then oil to prevent rust.

October 11, 2006, 11:55 PM
Thanks for all the helpful info! As I didn't make very clear, this is will be an issue with the contractors insurance company, which is strictly about liability and will cover anything with no exclusions or limits up to the actual total limit of his policy which no doubt is in the millions considering the size of his business. All investigations to this point, by our insurance company, the fire marshall, and even the statements made by the contractors employees point the blame squarely on the contractor. That end of it is really cut and dried. The total damage to the building itself exceeds the value of the insurance converage that we had on the building. Its quite likely a tear down and rebuild situation where our insurance will be writing a check for the limit on our policy and we will be going after the contractors insurance for the difference between what our insurance company paid us and what the actual rebuilding costs turn out to be. Our insurance does not cover contents so we will be going after the contractors insurance for the contents of the building. The overall aggregate of damage is in excess of 1 million, so 25k or so in firearm losses is overall very small. I will have to find the right kind of gunsmith to estimate and determine if a repair is possible. Much appreciated for all the advice.

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